If you think you can't make a difference, think again. One very important benefit of membership in local and national organizations for co-op and condo residents is that they get your voices heard by city, state and federal law makers. The Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives (FNYHC) and the Council of New York Cooperatives (CNYC) in New York City and the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) are in frequent contact with legislators lobbying for the issues that matter to you.
The Federation, the Council and the NAHC share many of the same goals. Protecting boards from criminal liability, increasing fire safety in high-rises, extending the popular real estate tax abatement program and modifying the 80/20 Rule are key issues on the legislative agenda of these co-op and condo champions for 1999.
The bulk of the Council's proposals are at the state level, but occasionally the organization works to introduce a proposal at the city or federal level. "As problems arise, we will jump on it and try to deal with a particular situation," explains Stuart Saft, the Council's chairman of the board and a partner with the Manhattan law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLP.
According to Greg Carlson, president of the Federation, under the administration of New York City Mayor Abe Beame the state took over all financial responsibility and oversight for the city. Since then, anything having to do with finances - such as tax abatements, valuation of real estate taxes or veteran exemptions - has had to go through the state legislature. Other types of proposals such as lead abatement or fire safety are taken up by the City Council.
In some cases, as with regulations concerning lead safety in residential dwellings, the city may pass one set of rules, while the state and federal governments each passes its own. Sometimes the City Council will obtain the Mayor's approval and pass a Home Rule that is sent up to Albany. This type of city-endorsed proposal generally carries more weight than a bill proposed by a legislator. "The rule of thumb," adds Carlson, "is to comply with whichever criteria are most stringent."